Chicken Orzo Soup – an upscale take on the chicken noodle stuff


The new Bon Appétit magazine had arrived, Barry had some extra chicken thighs on hand, and he discovered a few volunteer leeks that had popped up in last year’s garden plot. So using a recipe in the April 2013 magazine as an inspiration, here’s the fragrant and tasty soup that Barry recently made on a cold winter (April in Kansas) evening.  


Chicken Orzo Soup   3 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise, about 1/2” thick
1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise, about 1/2” thick
10 to 12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken thighs – deboned & cut into bite-size pieces
4 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup orzo

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. 
2. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 8 minutes.

Preparing the leek and celery for the stock pot.
3. Add chicken and sauté slightly.
4. Add broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
5.Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8 to10 minutes.

Recipe without photo . . .
Chicken Orzo Soup    3 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise, about 1/2” thick
1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise, about 1/2” thick
10 to 12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken thighs – deboned & cut into bite-size pieces
4 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup orzo

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. 
2. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
3. Add chicken and sauté slightly.
4.  Add broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8 to10 minutes.

Susan’s Cornbread Salad



     Cornbread salad must be southern cook’s take on classic Italian bread salad. I must admit that the term “bread salad” used to conjure up visions of soggy bread floating in a sea of dressing and so I turned up my nose at the idea. Even at that, I was always intrigued with the idea of cornbread salad but not brave enough to give it a try. Then a couple of years ago we sampled it at a salad supper in Durham, Ks. We both went back for second helpings!
     Bread salads were typically a way to use up day old breads and I imagine that each cook had her/his own spin on the other ingredients that went into the mix.    
     When I interview Susan Taylor last December for my monthly cooking column in the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, she offered up her own take on the salad. She uses black beans (rather than pinto or red), mixes the beans and corn with the dressing and adds a few jalapeños for a little kick.
Susan often takes this salad to “carry-ins,” including funeral dinners. She also suggests using a glass bowl to assemble the salad so everyone can admire the layers of this pretty and very tasty salad. Here’s her recipe as it appeared in my column:

Susan’s Cornbread Salad
1 (6 oz.) pkg. cornbread mix (I used an 8.5 oz. box of Jiffy corn muffin mix*)
1 regular pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream 
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon jarred jalapeño peppers, which are already diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can black beans, drained (or substitute pinto beans)
1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup sliced green onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 large tomatoes, chopped (cherry or grape tomatoes work well, too)
1 lb. bacon, cooked & crumbled
10 oz. of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Prepare cornbread as directed on package; cool.
2. Combine salad dressing mix, sour cream, mayonnaise and jalapeños.
3. Add the beans, corn, green onions, and green pepper to the dressing; mix thoroughly.
4. Crumble half of the cornbread into a large bowl. Top with half of dressing mixture, and then layer tomatoes, bacon, and cheese. Repeat layers.
5.     Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving. Keeps well.

*7 Reasons This Muffin Mix Can Save America — After reading this article, I went to the store and brought Jiffy cornbread mixes!

Recipe without photos . . .
Susan’s Cornbread Salad
1 (6 oz.) pkg. cornbread mix (I used an 8.5 oz. box of Jiffy corn muffin mix*)
1 regular pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon jarred jalapeño peppers, which are already diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can black beans, drained  (or substitute pinto beans)
1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup sliced green onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 large tomatoes, chopped (cherry or grape tomatoes work well, too)
1 lb. bacon, cooked & crumbled
10 oz. of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Prepare cornbread as directed on package; cool.
2. Combine salad dressing mix, sour cream, mayonnaise and jalapeños.
3. Add the beans, corn, green onions, and green pepper to the dressing; mix thoroughly.
4. Crumble half of the cornbread into a large bowl. Top with half of dressing mixture, and then layer tomatoes, bacon, and cheese. Repeat layers.
5. Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving. Keeps well.

Extra Special Ranch Potatoes


     This is Barry’s latest variation of the ever-familiar potato. The recipe is easy to prepare; the results were yummy and something a little different than the usual.    
     Instead of just mixing all olive oil with Ranch dressing, Barry added some mayo – it melts and coats the potatoes with additional oil while adding another layer of flavor.

Extra Special Ranch Potatoes
3 to 4 small to medium Russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed, if needed
1 to 2 tablespoons (dry) Ranch dressing mix
2 to 3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1.     Heat oven to 400°.
2.     Cut potatoes into slices, about ¼” thick and place in a mixing bowl.
3.     Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly.
4.     Spread prepared potatoes on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven.
5.     Bake for 20 minutes or until tender and nicely browned.
Our niece kicked these potatoes up another notch by topping her portion with sour cream.

Perfect Roasted Chicken Thighs — something to "cluck" about!


     When it comes to chicken, I generally prefer breasts in soups and casseroles. Of course I love fried chicken but ONLY wings! Barry prefers thighs and legs.
     Following his instructions, I purchased a package of thighs and he began experimenting (he also made  chicken orzo soup) and the results were truly something to cluck about!
     Not only were the thighs flavorful and tender but the skin was super crispy,  making them appealing to the eye and to the taste buds. He can make this recipe for me anytime!
     Note: Barry essentially used the spices and vinegar (flavored in this case) that we had on hand but will experiment with others in the future . . . so if you don’t have the particular ingredients listed below, follow his lead and experiment! He also ended up with leftover marinade and so carefully bagged and labeled it and then refrigerated it for the next batch of chicken thighs; it could be frozen. (Be sure your label indicates that the marinade has come in contact with raw chicken!)

Perfect Roasted Chicken Thighs 
Marinade:
¼ cup rosemary vinegar (made by adding a sprig of fresh rosemary to white vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon Penzeys® Forward! (blend of black pepper, onion, paprika, garlic,  turmeric, etc.)
½ teaspoon Fines Herbs, Salt-Free (blend of parsley, French tarragon, chervil & chives)
Pinch of coarse black pepper and Kosher salt
-----
3 chicken thighs

1. Add marinade ingredients to a large re-sealable bag and mix. Drop in the thighs; seal.


2.  Place bag in refrigerator for about an hour, allowing the flavors to marinate. He placed the bag inside a bowl to make sure it didn't leak inside the refrigerator.
3.  Arrange thighs in a baking dish; drizzle a little of the leftover marinade on top of thighs.

4.  Add baking dish to hot 400°oven; bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 170°.
5.  To crisp the exterior, set the oven on broil, move the chicken fairly close to the heat and broil for at least 5 minutes, watching carefully.
Crispy chicken thigh served with steamed veggies. 
Recipe without photos . . .
Perfect Roasted Chicken Thighs 
Marinade:
¼ cup rosemary vinegar (made by adding a sprig of fresh rosemary to white vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon Penzeys® Forward! (blend of black pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, turmeric, etc.)
½ teaspoon Fines Herbs, Salt-Free (blend of parsley, French tarragon, chervil & chives)
Pinch of coarse black pepper and Kosher salt
-----
3 chicken thighs

1. Add marinade ingredients to a large re-sealable bag and mix. Drop in the thighs; seal.
2. Place bag in refrigerator for about an hour, allowing the flavors to marinate.  He placed the bag inside a bowl to make sure it didn't leak inside the refrigerator.
3. Arrange thighs in a baking dish; drizzle a little of the leftover marinade on top of  thighs.
4. Add baking dish to hot 400°oven; bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 170°.
5. To crisp the exterior, set the oven on broil, move the chicken fairly close to the heat and broil for at least 5 minutes, watching carefully.